Overshot

I have recently discovered overshot weaving.  Overshot is a technique where you create images and designs on woven cloth by having some of the yarn go over the top of the fabric. Look down at the wall hanging below. See the cats at the top, the wave in the middle, and the chaostars on bottom? Those were done with overshot.

(The rest of the piece is various weaving techniques such as leno lace, Brooks bouquets, and Danish medallions.)

I’m doing this with a pick-up stick on a rigid heddle loom, and it’s quite easy as long as I design my pattern on a grid beforehand. I’m using StitchSketch on my iPad for that. There’s a lightweight free version, but I’m using it so much I bought the full version. It’s not as robust as a desktop app, but far more portable.

The above wall hanging was my first attempt at overshot and some of the other techniques. I’m getting much better. I’ve done a second wall hanging, which was a commission by a friend. (I can’t show it to you right now, as she hasn’t received it yet and wants it to be a surprise.). I’m working on a third one now, for my sweetheart. It’s more complicated, now that I have some idea what I’m doing. I charted some prehistoric border patterns and some images that mean things to her. I’m doing the entire piece in just overshot, no other techniques.

I enjoy tapestry, but it’s too freeform for my current skill set. Overshot images let me “draw”, but the restrictions of working on a grid somehow make it much easier for me. The piece I’m working on now only has two colors, red on a black background , but I intend to try adding a third color to my next piece.

Overshot is an ancient technique. There are existing fragments of cloth featuring it from many thousands of years ago, well before the advent of writing. Overshot designs were copied onto vases in Ancient Greece; we know this because there are stylistic elements that are part of this weaving technique that are put there to secure the yarn, and those elements show up on early pottery.

The way I’m weaving used a modern loom, but it’s the oldest way of doing overshot — pick up the warp threads by hand, then weave a plain row on top. Fancy looms let you do most of the work with multiple shafts. I like the connection to the ancient method, although I’m not willing to build a prehistoric loom to get really authentic. I do appreciate modern technology!

Anyway, I’ll post the other two pieces, once the commission reaches its owner and I finish the current project. I’m having a lot of fun, and if you own a rigid heddle loom I suggest trying overshot. There’s a three part series on YouTube that comes up if you search for “overshot rigid heddle.” The lady is making Christmas trees. I’ll try to remember to link it later, as I’m on my phone right now…

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